OSU Bucking History's Trend

Though everyone, including Jim Tressel, is living in the moment game-by-game, Ohio State fans may some day look back and notice they were in a golden era of Ohio State football. Is that accurate? Kyle Lamb gives a history lesson and stacks the Tressel-led Buckeyes up against the rest of the nation in that time. Find out how OSU ranks.

Ohio State found itself down 17-10 late in the third quarter to a Wisconsin team in all too familiar a position. History was not on the Buckeyes' side.

Much like the previous three encounters against the Badgers in Columbus, Ohio State had watched a halftime lead evaporate into an uncomfortable deficit.

This time, it was a 10-3 Ohio State advantage that slipped much like a pair of 17-0 scores and a 10-0 lead had wilted away in 1999, 2001 and 2004. The latter two of those meetings have been under OSU reigning head coach Jim Tressel, though it was Barry Alvarez and not Bret Beliema patrolling the Wisconsin sidelines.

But that's where Buckeye fans' nightmarish flashbacks seemingly halted.

"Those who do not learn from history," says the ages-old cliche, "are condemned to repeat it."

The history lessons taught by Tressel to his No. 1-ranked Buckeyes in the week leading up to this Big Ten slug-fest apparently sunk in. Ohio State aced this test.

Again.

His learned pupils, determined not to fall victim to the same results of the same Scarlet & Gray players that preceded them, did a little teaching of their own. They taught those still doubting Tressel's program that they could in fact learn from their mistakes and are not condemned to repeat history.

But instead, they're making it.

The Buckeyes reached deep and turned a 17-10 deficit into a convincing 38-17 victory. Along with it, they went 10-0 for a second consecutive season, preserved a No. 1-ranking and first place in the Big Ten, and won for the twentieth consecutive time within the conference - an all-time record, passing Michigan from 1990-92 who won 19 straight Big Ten games.

In fact, if not for a 41-14 motivating history lesson suffered at last year's BCS Championship game to Florida, the Buckeyes would now be working on a 29-game winning streak, as opposed to "only" a 28-game regular season win streak. The 28-game regular season streak is the most by any Big Ten team since Michigan also won 28-straight from 1901-03. To put the streak in context, the 29-game streak would have been good for a tie for eighth all-time. Oklahoma holds the record winning streak including bowl games with 47 consecutive wins in 1953-57.

As it stands, the regular season streak is good for one of the top 10 in NCAA Division I history with Oklahoma's streak of 45 straight in the regular season topping the list.

Since Tressel was dubbed Buckeye head coach in 2001, replacing John Cooper after 13 seasons, Ohio State has shattered, if not toyed with several feats. Not the least of which is Ohio State's record in Ohio Stadium, which improves to 43-4 with the win against Wisconsin. Of the four losses, two were to the Badgers and the others were against Illinois in Tressel's first season and eventual National Champion Texas in 2005. Ohio State's current home winning streak, standing at 18 games, is tied for longest in the country along with LSU.

Ohio State's dominance at home during that stretch barely, if at all, overshadows their might within the conference. From 2001 to present, Ohio State's record within the Big Ten improves to 44-10. Of those losses (three against Wisconsin, twice against Penn State and once each to Michigan, Purdue, Illinois, Iowa and Northwestern), seven came in 2001 & 2004 combined. That leaves a 35-3 record in the other seasons combined.

For a better grasp of the Buckeyes' accomplishments, one needs to look at the bigger picture. It's how Ohio State stacks up nationally, that should grab your attention.

With all the press and pub going to USC and Trojan head coach Pete Carroll, Ohio State is neck-and-neck with Southern California when it comes to recent success. In fact, with Ohio State's victory Saturday, the Buckeyes now have a better record (72-14) under Tressel since 2001 than USC under Carroll (71-14).

During that stretch, only Boise State (74-12) and Texas (73-13) have better winning percentages than do the Buckeyes. The Longhorns, Trojans and Buckeyes each have four bowl wins in that time with Texas and USC losing just once in five appearances, while Ohio State has lost twice in bowl bids each of the six previous years. USC is 4-1 in five BCS bowls, meanwhile, Ohio State and Oklahoma are tied for second with four BCS appearances - Ohio State going 3-1 and Oklahoma 1-3.

By contrast, Ohio State's all-everything rival Michigan, now 63-22 during that time, is just 1-5 in bowl appearances and 0-3 in BCS games. However, more than postseason success, it's been Ohio State's success against their chief rival that has been a trademark of Tressel in seven seasons at the helm.

How you fare against your rivals is often a key measurement in establishing the elite from the average. In that capacity, Ohio State has fared as well as anyone, going 5-1 against the Wolverines thus far in six meetings. Relatively speaking, USC has also gone 5-1 against UCLA, LSU 5-1 against one of a few rivals, Arkansas and Oklahoma 5-2 against Texas.

In putting it all together, only LSU (4-2 in bowl games, 3-0 in BCS appearances and a National Title) has matched Ohio State, Texas and USC in recent years. LSU is sixth nationally in winning percentage since 2001, now 70-17 under Nick Saban and Les Miles combined.

People wonder how Ohio State can pick up right where they left off pre-debacle in the desert and cruise to another possible undefeated regular season, especially after losing eight players to the NFL draft, including two first-rounders and Heisman Trophy quarterback Troy Smith. Recovering from heavy professional departures has also been a mark of Tressel's program.

Only Miami has equaled the Buckeyes' 47 draft picks since 2001. Though the Hurricanes have 20 first-rounders in that time, only Texas (10 first-round picks) can also match Ohio State in that department. Perhaps surprising to many, USC has 32 NFL picks (seven first-rounders) and LSU has 31 picks (seven first-rounders) in that same time. The Longhorns are tied with Georgia, Florida and Tennessee for third behind Miami and Ohio State with 36 picks each in that time.

Despite replacing a pair of starting receivers, a quarterback, starting tailback, two defensive linemen and a center, Ohio State is hoping to add a third consecutive Big Ten Title (and fourth in Tressel's seven seasons) as well as a third BCS National Championship appearance.

But that is where Tressel's students must really prove it learned from history.

Perhaps most of the national anticipation the Buckeyes are bound to fail stems from the 41-14 shellacking at the hands of the Gators. It's just a matter of time, so say the pundits, that Ohio State will face a familiar fate at the hands of expected SEC Champion LSU. It's the Southern speed that will be too much for the Buckeyes to overcome, if they're fortunate enough to escape upstart Illinois or pesky rival Michigan before that time.

Nevermind that since 2001, the SEC's record against the Big Ten is just 12-11, including 2-3 against the conference last year - despite the perception of superiority. In the last 10 years, the SEC is just 20-16 against the inferior Big Ten.

It's funny how one bad game, for one conference team on one given day can skew such a collective mindset, isn't it?

For Ohio State to continue their march on history, they need the utmost precision from junior quarterback Todd Boeckman. Boeckman is a large reason why the Buckeyes are prevailing thus far against the belief they would take a step back in 2007.

Heading into Saturday's showdown against the Badgers, Boeckman's 165.3 passer rating ranked him third nationally. In fact, at that rating, Boeckman would finish fourth all-time in the Big Ten in single-season rating. After Saturday, Boeckman also has 23 touchdown passes - currently placing him two shy of cracking the top 10 in Big Ten history for a single season.

Merely performing at the pace he's on per game, Boeckman would wind up with 29 touchdowns, which would tie him for fourth with OSU's Bobby Hoying in 1995. In comparison, Troy Smith had 30 touchdowns last season. Purdue's Drew Brees holds the Big Ten record with 38 in 1998 and Kyle Orton second with 31 in 2004. Just for an added bonus, Boeckman's 66.6 percent completion rate sits him sixth all-time for a single season in the Big Ten. With a strong finish, he could wind up as high as second in efficiency for a single season and somewhere between third and fifth in completion percentage.

No one, however, can talk about 2007 without mentioning Chris "Beanie" Wells. At 1,165 yards, Wells' current pace would give him 1,514 yards rushing this season. The 6-3 true sophomore rushed just 12 times against Northwestern in a blowout and just four times against Kent State in nursing a leg injury.

Had Wells played a "normal" game in either, he would likely be looking at nearly 1,700 yards rushing. Darnell Autry ranks tenth all-time in a single season for rushing in the Big Ten with 1,785 yards in 1995. Even his current pace would be the sixth-best single season in Ohio State history by way of running backs. Boeckman currently ranks tops on the Ohio State record book in both efficiency and completion percentage as well as fourth in touchdown passes.

All-in-all, the book is far from finished for Ohio State. Though the 2007 Buckeyes continue to re-write the history books, repeating it would merely be looked upon as failure. If history has taught us one thing, it's that Tressel is learning from it - and making it at the same time.

Saturday in Columbus, Wisconsin's script was flipped. Instead of the traditional ending they read in history books, Ohio State dished out an alternate finish.

It's just another chapter in what's becoming a rather impressive history of it's own.






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